Find out the latest indie author news. For FREE.


Mike O'Neill
Mike O'Neill, author
"This wasn’t part of the game plan…" After a second advanced cancer diagnosis, Coach Mike O’Neill found himself reflecting on how his journey through life and sports had prepared him for the ultimate test and foe—cancer. In his memoir, the beloved Tennessee high school football coach shares the experiences that shaped his approach to life, love, and work. Lessons from the gridiron provided O’Neill a foundation of strength for the unforeseen battles off the field. From the love story and struggles in building a family with his incredible soulmate, discovering his passion for mentoring youth, enduring the risks and rewards of working his dream job while seeking harmony within his home, to the eventual first cancer diagnosis and seeking treatment… O’Neill embodies how passion, love, determination, and faith have carried him through the tougher plays of his life—the unexpected moments that threatened to take him off his game plan and the moments he had to surrender to prayer. A journey of resilience, faith, and legacy, “Don’t Back Down” is a playbook of lessons about: •\tConsidering how you want to be remembered and the impact you leave behind •\tDiscovering and pursuing one’s true passion and calling rather than playing it safe •\tBuilding fortitude and mental toughness in the face of life’s challenges and adversity •\tSeeking balance and meaning in one’s life—in family, career, and personal fulfillment •\tRemembering how precious life is and to live in integrity with one’s values •\tLearning when to stick to the game plan and when to trust in God’s greater plan This inspiring nonfiction book illustrates how you cannot control what the game of life throws at you, but you can choose how you show up and face it, regardless of the opportunity or challenge ahead. Mike O’Neill shows that when you bring your “A” game, hold onto hope, and don’t back down… Anything is possible.
O’Neill’s debut, a memoir, is the inspiring life story of a hardworking high school football coach and his eventual fight against cancer. At 16, though Mike decides to quit football, an opportunity to coach his kid brother’s team kindles in him a lifelong passion for football coaching. As injuries end his baseball career in college, and romance and marriage usher in the responsibility of providing for a young family, he shelves his dream and becomes a salesperson instead, doing well financially. A chance comment by a friend leads him to eventually becoming a teacher and football coach. Decades later, a shocking throat cancer diagnosis throws life out of gear.

Narrated in a straightforward, often conversational prose, O’Neill’s account of his life story brings out two outstanding qualities: his positive attitude and his commitment to working hard. Despite setbacks, he moves forward relentlessly, both in living life and in telling the story. He exhibits little regretful or dwelling upon the past, whether about wrong decisions, injuries, or disruptions due to reasons outside his control. He takes stock, evaluates his resources and moves forward with determination, never shy of working hard. His upbeat, get-it-done attitude, the hallmark of a coach, remains the same even when it comes to fighting cancer.

Another heartening element of Don’t Back Down is the love story at its heart, as O’Neill frequently acknowledges that he is extremely lucky to have found a soul mate in Beth. Without an understanding and supportive spouse, his life’s most dramatic transitions—from a highly paid corporate job to following his dream into the comparatively lower paid job of a teacher—would not have been possible. Disappointingly, the narrative does not describe the transformative process of slowing down post diagnosis even while the author admits that both he and his wife have lived life in the fast lane. Though heavy on coaching jargon, O’Neill’s memoir is an inspiring, fast-paced memoir as exciting as a tightly contested game.

Takeaway: Inspiring memoir of high school football coach’s fight against cancer.

Comparable Titles: Edward Ulloa’s 27: A Football Coach’s Memoir, Michael DiMatteo’s Confessions of a High School Football Coach.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A